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[infowar.de] Land Warrior II schon in Afghanistan im Einsatz?
Das C3I- und Schutzpaket für die US-Infanterie (mit Helmdisplay, Pentium
III Computer, tactical Radio und kugelsicherem Schutzanzug) war
eigentlich erst für 2004 geplant, soll nun aber eventuell schon im
kommenden Frühjahr ausgeliefert werden. Offenbar haben die USA doch
größeres vor in Afghanistan.... RB
High tech on the battlefield
Top brass at the Pentagon are considering rushing into production the
world's first wearable computer network for soldiers, a high-tech system
that could give the U.S. military a crucial edge in its fight against
Designed and engineered in Silicon Valley, the experimental Land
Warrior system originally was scheduled for release in 2004. But
military commanders, who are scouring their arsenal for technologies
that will help soldiers track down terrorists in hostile terrain such as
the mountains of Afghanistan, now are debating whether to quickly adopt
the futuristic system.
``Land Warrior is one that we're looking at to see if we can push it
harder,'' says Lt. General Paul Kern, the military deputy overseeing
acquisition of technology for the U.S. Army.
The wearable computers, now in the final testing stage, turn foot
soldiers into ``smart'' soldiers, creating a wireless human network on
the battlefield, complete with Pentium III-powered portable computers, a
gun-mounted mouse, e-mail, night vision goggles and a global positioning
system that can pinpoint the enemy in the dark.
``It was designed for places like Afghanistan,'' says Hugh Duffy,
vice president of Pemstar Pacific Consultants in Mountain View. Duffy's
been working on the Land Warrior system since 1999, when the Army
enlisted Silicon Valley experts to salvage its then-floundering
``smart'' soldier project.
A decision to fast-track the project would give a financial boost to
several firms that do business in Silicon Valley and are crafting the
technology -- especially Pemstar, the electronics manufacturer that will
make the next round of prototypes at its San Jose plant. It's seen as
having an excellent shot at winning the deal to manufacture the wearable
computer components for 34,000 systems (about $30,000 a unit), a sizable
piece of the entire $1.5 billion Land Warrior contract.
The goal is to make soldiers almost as invisible as snipers who have
a home turf advantage by turning them into walking ``local area
networks'' (or LANs), communicating much like wireless PC networks in an
These ``smart'' soldiers seem to be straight out of a video game
fantasy. With satellite-relayed data, soldiers can look into their
helmet-mounted video displays and see battlefield maps that show where
everyone is -- friend or foe. Their thermal heat sensors reveal hidden
targets and zero in on warm bodies. A video sight allows them to fire
around corners with minimal exposure.
``We've never had the ability for one soldier to designate a target,
and for another soldier to shoot it,'' says Col. Bruce Jette, who has
overseen the successful redesign of Land Warrior, serving as its project
manager until June. Jette now works on preparing the Army for 2010 and
When it comes to communicating, instead of age-old battlefield
methods, troops can talk to one another via radios and e-mail --
hand-typed or pre-written messages.
Cautious thumbs up
Unless serious problems surface in current safety and reliability
tests, Jette has advised his Pentagon commanders that Land Warrior could
be rolling off the assembly line by late spring if they make a decision
The military is getting the same cautious thumbs up from Silicon
Valley engineers who are putting hardware and software through rigorous
``The bottom-line question is: Will this make it more likely that a
soldier will survive? The answer is yes,'' says John Geddes, Land
Warrior project manager at Exponent, the Menlo Park engineering
consultant coordinating work by five companies doing the design work.
Army officials credit Silicon Valley ingenuity with saving a military
boondoggle that Congress almost killed three years ago. The first
ill-fated prototypes were made by Raytheon, a defense contractor, which
was hamstrung by rigid military specifications and ended up a $100
million debacle with glitched technology. At 40 pounds, testers couldn't
raise their heads to fire rifles because of the bulky computer on their
The Army recruited Jette, who has a Ph.D. in physics from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to figure out what went wrong. In
1999, he headed to Silicon Valley where he was advised by engineers at
the consulting firm Failure Analysis to scrap those rigid requirements
in favor of entrepreneurial, seat-of-your-pants style innovation.
``We drove to Fry's and bought a radio, head phones and ordered a
wearable computer,'' recalls Duffy, who then was with Failure Analysis,
which was later acquired by Exponent. With commercial, off-the-shelf
products, Duffy's team jury-rigged a crude, but functional prototype.
``If you think making a laptop is challenging, try making a laptop
that you wear while someone is trying to kill you,'' says Jette, who
convinced the Army to break with tradition and use Silicon Valley
engineers instead of defense contractors.
By the summer of 2000, Land Warrior was ready for beta testing. The
Silicon Valley folks knew they had to win over still-skeptical Army
Critics questioned whether computers -- and e-mail -- even belonged
on the battlefield. ``The notion of applying those capabilities in close
combat was very difficult for some in the Army to accept,'' recalls
retired Col. Hank Kinnison, who headed up the user group at Fort
Benning, Ga., where the Army runs tests.
So, Land Warrior prototypes were sent into simulated combat. For a
week in September 2000, 44 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division
used the gear in mock battles at swampy Fort Polk, La., which Duffy
calls ``the closest thing to hell in the United States.''
During the week, some software crashed, the radio range was too
limited. But overall, the paratroopers found that the 16.6-pound
wearable computer network gave them a tactical advantage. The entire
Land Warrior package -- everything from body armor to weapons to
wearable computer -- weighs a hefty 92 pounds.
The tests sold even long-time critics such as Kinnison, who came away
convinced that the sophisticated weaponry and body armor, coupled with
the ability to receive
information in seconds, could be the difference between victory and
Over the next few weeks, top Pentagon commanders will debate whether
to rush Land Warrior into combat. Advocates and opponents are expected
to break into two camps:
risk-takers vs. more conservative generals, still wary of an
Silicon Valley engineers acknowledge that they're still working out
glitches. But, they ask, which is better? A battlefield radio with a
limited range, or no radio at all?
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